Latin American virus cases top 5 million
In this file picture taken on June 17, 2020 Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez (L), wearing a protective suit, greets a member of the Red Cross unloading boxes of aid for residents at the Ciudad Bolivar neighbourhood, one of the areas with more COVID-19 cases in the Colombian capital. Claudia Lopez was just stating her term -which promised to be a breakdown- when the worst crisis since 1948 broke out in Bogota. The pandemic has put the only female mayor in a Latin American metropolis to the test.
AFP/Juan Barreto
Latin American virus cases top 5 million
Robin Millard (Agence France-Presse) - August 4, 2020 - 8:05am

GENEVA, Switzerland — Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed five million coronavirus cases on Monday as the World Health Organization warned there might never be a "silver bullet" for the pandemic.

Global infections passed 18 million, with Brazil driving the regional surge. South America's largest country has recorded 2.75 million cases, and close to half the region's 202,000 deaths.

Only the United States, with 4.7 million cases and more than 155,000 deaths, has been worse affected.

In the region's second hardest-hit country, Peru, daily cases have almost doubled from 3,300 to 6,300 since bus and air travel resumed a month ago, according to official figures.

The world's hope of ending the current cycle of outbreaks and lockdowns rests on a vaccine, but the WHO said governments and citizens should focus on what is known to work: testing, contact tracing, maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask.

"We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.

"However, there's no silver bullet at the moment -- and there might never be," he said.

"For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control. Do it all."

Despite months of economically crippling restrictions, the pandemic is gathering pace with the worldwide death toll nearing 700,000 and a White House adviser warning the virus is "extraordinarily widespread" in the United States.

'Pretty demoralised'

There has been a resurgence in countries that had previously brought their outbreaks under control, including Australia, where sweeping new restrictions kicked in for the hard-hit state of Victoria on Monday.

They include a nighttime curfew in state capital Melbourne for the next six weeks, with the city ordering non-essential businesses to close, and a ban on weddings.

Melbourne book store manager Bill Morton said his normally "vibrant, lovely" patch of the city had transformed into a "ghost town". 

"People are pretty demoralised," he told AFP. "Pretty well everything is closed around here. So it's a very strange, quite eerie atmosphere." 

Authorities in the Philippines have also had to reimpose curbs after infections surged past 100,000, forcing more than 27 million people -- including in the capital Manila -- back into lockdown for two weeks from Tuesday.

The Middle East's hardest-hit nation Iran meanwhile reported its highest single-day infection count in nearly a month, warning that most of its provinces are facing a resurgence.

In the US, Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, warned the country has entered a "new phase". 

"What we are seeing today is different from March and April," she told CNN, adding that the virus "is extraordinarily widespread".

The pandemic has spurred a rush for a vaccine that some have compared to the space race, and Russia said on Monday it is aiming to launch mass production in September and turn out "several million" doses per month by next year.

But Vitaly Zverev, laboratory chief at the Mechnikov Research Institute of Vaccines and Sera, told AFP that it was "impossible to ensure a vaccine's safety in the time that has passed since the beginning of this pandemic".

"You can make anything, but who is going to buy it?"

The impositions the pandemic has put on daily life has sparked protests on nearly every continent.

Berlin saw thousands of people rally over the weekend against virus restrictions, with far-left and far-right demonstrators joined by those supporting widely debunked conspiracy theories.

The protesters -- who shouted "We are the second wave" on their "day of freedom" -- were mostly not wearing masks, which the German government blasted as "unacceptable".

On Monday, the country was watching anxiously as 150,000 children returned to school in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany's first state to restart full-time classes after the summer holidays, with infection numbers on the rise again.

In neighbouring France, Prime Minister Jean Castex urged the nation "not to let down its guard" as surging cases led the Riviera resort city of Nice to become the latest to mandate outside mask-wearing during the summer holiday season.

"The virus has not gone on holiday and neither have we," Castex said.

Party crasher

The pandemic has forced huge changes on many summer events in the northern hemisphere, including China's famous Qingdao beer festival, which opened at the weekend with its "Beer City" limited to only 30 percent capacity.

Still, many were happy just to attend something.

"It's been half a year since I last travelled around," tourist Wang Hua told state broadcaster CCTV. "I feel so happy and relaxed."

And on the Spanish party island of Ibiza, the government has only allowed clubs with a capacity of 300 or less to open -- with mega clubs closed for the season.

Nightclub operators said social distancing would make it impossible to stage the wild parties Ibiza is famous for.

"When we shout, saliva can go as far as two metres (over six feet)," said Jose Luis Benitez, head of the Ibiza Leisure Association.

"Who can keep distances inside a nightclub?" — with Carly Waters in Melbourne and AFP bureaus

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 26, 2020 - 4:13pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

September 26, 2020 - 4:13pm


The Philippines surpasses the 300,000-mark, with 2,747 new COVID-19 infections registered on Saturday.

88 individuals died and 787 recovered from the deadly virus.

September 25, 2020 - 4:10pm

The Department of Health reports 2,630 new cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the national tally to 299.361.

69 have succumbed to the deadly virus while 494 have recovered. 

September 25, 2020 - 7:14am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 978,448 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

At least 31,975,020 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 21,891,500 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

September 24, 2020 - 5:47pm

Israel toughens its coronavirus measures as a second nationwide lockdown now nearing its second week failed to bring down the world's highest infection rate.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations. 

"Over the past two days, we've heard from experts that if we don't take immediate and harsh measures, we'll reach an abyss," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. — AFP 

September 24, 2020 - 4:13pm

The Department of Health on Thursday reports 2,180 additional COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, raising the national caseload to 296,755.

The DOH also confirms 580 new recoveries, pushing the total reported recoveries to 231,928. The country's death toll now stands at 5,127 with 36 newly-reported deaths.

Total active case (net of COVID-19 deaths and recoveries) in the country is now at 59,700.

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